Juggling Too Much

Spring semester has come to an end, so teaching and grading and going to classes are over until August. However, my workload hasn’t decreased at all. I’ve been doing a lot of preparations for summer lately. I’ve got this massive project in the works that I’ve been thinking about since Fall 2015, and it’s finally coming to fruition.

First, for four weeks during May and June I will be attending the University of Maryland Summer Field School in Patzún, Guatemala. The first two weeks are intensive Kaqchikel Mayan language classes (I get to learn to speak Mayan!), and the last two weeks are mentored bilingual education research. I’ll be going around to the local schools and giving the second graders a few tests of numerical cognition and mathematics achievement. This is really exciting for me, because there’s a huge lack of published cognitive research and education research in Guatemala, and especially among Mayan people. I think this is an incredible shame as the Mayan languages use a unique base-20 counting system. This base-20 system, where there are 20 individual digit systems, is dying out as the spoken numbers are being replaced with the base-10 Spanish numbers instead as more people are educated in the Spanish-speaking school systems.

Hopefully I’ll be able to scrounge up 40 children bilingual in Mayan and Spanish that can actually count in Mayan. Since the children I’ll be doing this research with are students at the Mayan-Spanish bilingual schools, I’ve got a slightly better chance of finding them. Even if I don’t get as many kids as I need for this project, the data I collect will still be useful in some future work I’d like to do.

The second part of this massive endeavor is going to be collecting data in the dual language immersion schools here in Utah. I’ll be giving the same measures from the Guatemalan portion to 160 American kids in English-speaking classes, English-Spanish bilingual classes, and English-Mandarin classes. Mandarin also has a pretty cool numerical system that’s transparently base-10, so I’ll get to compare a cognitively “easy” numerical system (Mandarin), a difficult one (Mayan), and two intermediate systems (English and Spanish).

It’s a massive undertaking that’s been putting a lot of stress on me for the last few weeks. I’ll be using this data for my second year project, but that milestone project can’t officially be proposed until this coming September. I can’t get any funding through the department until the project proposal has been accepted! That’s fine for the Utah data collection in Fall, but it puts me in a massive pickle for my data collection in Guatemala this summer. The testing procedures that I’ve been anticipating using are expensive, time consuming to prepare, and somewhat difficult to prepare at all when I haven’t been able to buy them yet.

In talking last night with my labmate and labmentor Salif, he helped me realized that I’ve been trying to juggle way too much with this project, especially with everything else that’s been going on in my life recently. If I keep this up, I’ll just drop all the balls I’ve been juggling and make a massive fool of myself. So, I’ve decided that I’m dropping the biggest and scariest of my testing procedures in favor of focusing on the ones that are smaller and easier to handle. It’s a bit disappointing, as I’d been hoping to implement this procedure here for a long time, but it makes the preparatory work load much less intimidating. It’ll also cut off about an hour of testing time for each kid, giving me more time to actually interact with other adults and maybe even have a little free time while I’m in Guatemala.

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